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Chicken with Plums (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

February 8, 2013 by  



“Chicken with Plums” is a beautiful love story about life’s regrets and a film with emotion and heartbreak.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2011, 2012 Celluloid Dreams Holdings, SAS, TheManipulators, uFilm, Studio 37, Le Pacte, Arte France Cinema, ZDF / Arte, Lorette Productions and Film(s) Sarl. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Chicken with Plums

DURATION: 91 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 2:35:1 – Anamorphic Widescreen, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: PG-13 (For Some Drug Content, Violent Images, Sensuality and Smoking)

RELEASE DATE: February 26, 2013

Written and Directed by Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi

Produced by Hengameh Panahi

Co-Producer: Remi Burah, Christoph Fisser, Henning Molfenter, Adrian Politowski, Gilles Waterkeyn, Charlie Woebcken

Associate Producer: Francois-Xavier Decraene

Line Producer: Jasmin Torbati

Music by Olivier Bernet

Cinematography by Christophe Beaucarne

Edited by Stephane Roche

Casting by Anja Dihrberg

Production Design by Udo Kramer

Set Decoration by Bernhard Henrich

Costume Design by Madeline Fontaine

Starring:

Mathieu Amalric as Nasser-Ali Khan

Edouard Baer as Azrael

Maria de Medeiros as Faringuisse

Golshifteh Farahani as Irane

Eric Caravaca as Abdi

Chaira Mastroianni as Lili, adulte

Mathis Bour as Cyrus

Enna Balland as Lili

Isabella Rossellini as Parvine

Jarnel Deboouze as Houshang/Le mendiant

Christian Friedel as Cyrus, 22 ans

From the Oscar nominated filmmakers of Persepolis, Chicken With Plums is a “captivating live-action fairytale full of whimsy, humor, magic and despair” (Collider.com). Since his beloved violin was broken, Nasser Ali Khan, one of the most renowned musicians of his day, has lost all taste for life. Finding no instrument worthy of replacing it, he decides to confine himself to bed to await death. As he hopes for its arrival, he plunges into deep reveries, with dreams as melancholic as they are joyous, taking him back to his youth and even to a conversation with Azraël, the Angel of Death, who reveals the future of his children. As pieces of the puzzle gradually fit together, the poignant secret of his life comes to light: a wonderful story of love which inspired his genius and his music.

From the writers/directors Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi of “Persepolis” comes the French drama “Chicken with Plums”.

Based on the graphic novel “Poulet aux prunes” by Satrapi, the film premiered at the 68th Venice International Film Festival back in September 2011.  And now, the film will be released by Sony Pictures Classics in Feb. 2013.

“Chicken with Plums” is set in Tehran during the ’50s and revolves around a man named Nasser-Ali Khan (portrayed by Mathieu Amalric).  A renowned concert violinist, things have not been the same for Nasser since his beloved violin was broken, and now he has tried so many violins from a variety of stores, he’s not achieving the sound that he wants.

One day, after purchasing a violin, he encounters a woman named and excited, he asks her if she is Irane (portrayed by Golshifteh Farahani) and asks her if she remembers him, she answers that she doesn’t.

We see a bit about Nasser’s current life.  He is married to a woman named Frainguisse (portrayed by Maria de Medeiros) with two children and while his wife works, he is often criticized by her for being unemployed and not taking responsibility as a husband and father.

While trying to play a stradivarius violin that he just purchased, it’s just not the same.  So, he pulls out his beloved, broken violin which is way beyond repair.

His music is his life and because he is unable to produce the music that he wants, he decides that he will die.

Fast forward eight days later and his loved ones and his friends attend his funeral.

And the film then takes us day by day of how Nasser tries to die.  But most importantly how his beloved violin was broken, but most importantly, how Nasser the musician and the individual, became a broken man.

And it begins of how the young Nasser Ali, a student in Shiraz, began dating the beautiful Irane.  Two people who fell in love but a love that was not able to overcome a major obstacle.

“Chicken with Plums” is a beautiful love story about life’s regrets and a film with emotion and heartbreak.

VIDEO, AUDIO AND SUBTITLES:

“Chicken with Plums” is presented in 2:35:1 anamorphic widescreen and French 5.1 Dolby Digital.  While the film was released on Blu-ray in France, in the U.S., only on DVD.  Picture quality for the most part is good, as one can expect on DVD.  While the audio is primarily dialogue-driven, until you get to the second half and when you hear the LFE kick during a splitting of a rock and hear Nasser-Ali playing his violin, dialogue and music sound crisp and clear.  Sure, I would have loved to watch this film in HD but for the most part, most should be pleased with the overall visual and audio presentation on DVD.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Chicken with Plums” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Co-Director/Co-writers Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud.  The commentary is in English and French but has optional commentary subtitles if needed.
  • Tribeca Q&A – (15:07) Featuring a Tribeca Film Festival Q&A with Co-Director/Co-writers Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (1:55) The original theatrical trailer for “Poulet aux prunes” (Chicken with Plums).

Sometimes you encounter a film that starts off one way in terms of tone and style but then takes a 180 and becomes a different film altogether.

Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s “Chicken with Plums” is a poetic film, a beautiful film that I found quite fascinating.  The first half of the film, the film feels like comedy and appears like a banal film about a man disenchanted with his life and not happy with his family.

For the first half of the film, you wonder to yourself of what is wrong with this guy.  Why does he seem so cold and bitter?  Why is he unable to play any other violin and how did his original beloved violin break?

As the film starts off showcasing Nasser-Ali embracing death and is greeted by death and the Angel of Death, Azrael (portrayed by Edouard Baer) in his dreams, part of me was trying to figure this film out and wondering if  “is this going to be a comedic version of Ingmar Bergman’s ‘Seventh Seal’?”.

So, while the first half of the film tries to show the viewer how Nasser-Ali is ready to die, while his kids hope he doesn’t, by the final half hour of the film,the tone of the film changes.

The film leaves its comedic roots to show us why Nasser-Ali is miserable and this is where the film becomes artistic, poetic and ultimately heartbreaking.

We find out that a younger Nasser-Ali was training to become a violinist, but while he was younger, he met the beautiful Irane.  The two enjoyed silent film, the two enjoyed each other’s company and the two fell in love.  It’s as if two individuals have discovered their soul mate and they felt they belonged together.

But I’m not going to spoil this film.  The relationship is the beginning of the magic but it’s the way the relationship is presented and what led to the breakup and the events that followed for the next 20-years is what is was amazing that you simply realize that writer and co-director Marjane Satrapi was preparing the viewer to go from dark comedy to a romantic drama  that will captivate you.

Because of its structure, some may feel that how the film is told for its first hour and its transition for the final half hour to be unbalanced,  looked at the two different style of storytelling to be rather interesting and unique when trying to do something different and not so banal as many other films tend to go that direction.  Try something different and that is what Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud are doing and I applaud the two for creating the shift in tonality and and overall style.

The acting by Mathieu Amalric and Golshifteh Farahani are fantastic.  Amalric does a wonderful job in portraying different sides of Nasser-Ali Khan and Farahani did a fantastic job in bringing the more emotional and sentimental component to the film.

As for the DVD, picture quality and audio quality is as good as one can expect from a DVD release.  You get an audio commentary and a Q&A from Tribeca that is included and for the most part, both were fascinating to listen to and watch.

Overall, “Chicken with Plums” is a fascinating film that is well-crafted but not entirely perfect, depending on the viewer in how they accept the two halves of the film which are presented in a different style. But I was absolutely captivated by this film by the ending credits and felt I experienced something quite delightfully entertaining and different.

“Chicken with Plums” is a beautiful love story about life’s regrets and a film with emotion and heartbreak.  Recommended!







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